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Biden meets leaders of NATO's eastern flank in Poland

February 22, 2023

US President Joe Biden has underlined his support for the security of NATO's easternmost member countries. Fears there of a possible Russian threat have been heightened since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.

Biden speaks with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis during the B9 summit
Biden pledged solidarity with Bucharest Nine members amid fears that Russia could stage other attacks on countries in Eastern and Central EuropeImage: MANDEL NGAN/AFP

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday held talks with leaders from the Bucharest Nine, NATO's easternmost members, before departing Poland. 

"The commitment of the United States to NATO, I said it many times and I say it again, is absolutely clear. Article 5 is a sacred commitment the United States has made," Biden said. "We will defend literally every inch of NATO, every inch of NATO."

Biden arrived in Warsaw late on Monday following a surprise visit to Kyiv, just days before the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

What was on the agenda?

Biden reaffirmed Washington's commitments to the security of the eastern allies and discussed support for Kyiv. 

The nine countries have been staunch supporters of military aid to Ukraine, and have called for additional assistance to the war-torn country such as air defense systems. 

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said after the discussion that he called for Biden to use additional military equipment in Baltic nations.

"I have talked about deployment of so-called critical enablers — this includes airspace surveillance systems, attack helicopters, HIMARS artillery," Nauseda told reporters. "We can hardly afford to purchase this, but it could be deployed [by allies] to the Baltics on rotational grounds."

Fears of further Russian aggression

The Bucharest Nine grouping came together in response to the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. It includes Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

Members of the B9 meet at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said 'the B9 is stronger than ever'Image: MANDEL NGAN/AFP

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has pledged to maintain ties with Russia, did not attend Wednesday's B9 meeting. Hungarian President Katalin Novak attended the summit instead.

The nine countries, who joined NATO after being dominated by Moscow during the Cold War, have had heightened fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin would take military action against them in light of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine

"When Russia invaded, it wasn't just Ukraine being tested. The whole world faced a test for the ages," Biden said on Tuesday in an address marking nearly one year since Russia launched a war against Ukraine. 

NATO leader Jens Stoltenberg said that nearly a year after its full-scale invasion of its neighbor, Russia did not appear to be preparing to end the war.

"One year after the Russian invasion President Putin is not preparing for peace," Stoltenberg said. "On the contrary, he is preparing more war."

Biden: Putin's suspension of NEW START 'a big mistake'

After arriving at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on Wednesday, Biden condemned Russia's decision to suspend its participation in the New START nuclear arms control treaty as "a big mistake" in comments made to journalists ahead of talks with the Bucharest Nine countries.

To secure European security, Radek Sikorski, a member of the European Parliament who previously served as Polish defense minister and foreign minister, told DW that the European Union must establish a "European defense worthy of its name."

"The best thing […] we could do is to increase our European defense budget so that the burdens of defending Europe against Putin are shared more fairly," he said.

Sikorski said Biden had "planted his standard in Kyiv" and "tied US credibility to Ukraine's success."

"If I were Putin, I would conclude that I can't win this," Sikorski said.

NATO will not be divided and we will not tire: US President Joe Biden

wd, fb/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)